Sean Walsh discusses the US mid-terms and the mob psychology of the Left.
On the eve of the November 2016 US election it was hard to believe that a serial sex pest and unremitting philanderer could be headed for the White House. We needn’t have worried: as we now know his wife lost that election and many an intern was spared. This “shock defeat” occasioned in Mrs Clinton an uncharacteristically extended and robust period of self-reflection. Having withdrawn from the national stage she emerged some ten minutes later to “take full responsibility” for her defeat by blaming Russia, the media, Russia, the electoral college, Obama, Jimmy Hoffa, men in general, and Russia.
Mrs Clinton remains a part of the “national conversation” in the US. She is a sort of Ted Heath in a pantsuit, opining against the injustice of her self-created “misfortune”. And in the run-up to the mid-term elections she is standing next to (and possibly being physically held up by) her fellow senior Democrats as they call for their leftist base to accelerate its aggressive, vicious and childish assault on the US democratic settlement. And boy has that base responded. Che Guevara t-shirts have been exchanged for brown shirts, Republican campaign buildings have been vandalised, supporters have been assaulted, a Senator has been spat on, a Congressman has been shot. Banshees have attacked the Capitol Building howling protests at the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
As ever, the object of the collected ire is Trump who continues to rope-a-dope all enemies foreign and domestic. He provokes and antagonises, and they continue to fall for it, abandoning sanity in favour of trenchancy. The Democratic Party, in particular, will abandon any policy however consistent with the ideals it promulgated in the past, if it can be reasonably suspected that Trump is sympathetic to it.
Consequently, the party of JFK now has nothing to say and its candidates resort instead to histrionics and rabid virtue signalling -actions which lack the virtue of any virtue to be signalled.
And so, the mob has been unleashed. Except in a way it hasn’t in that the “liberal media” has declared the term “mob” to be a trigger word (although only when applied to the left). Like a battalion of modern-day J Edgar Hoovers news anchors are banging their fists and screaming “there is no such thing as the Mob!”. Meanwhile, Democratic representatives at state and local level continue to act like capos in the Genovese crime family.
Is the nastiness of the US left exhausted by its many examples or is there some deeper explanation, one that might apply to the left more generally? Let’s take that last example first: the tendency of activists on the left to appropriate the linguistic currency. Those who believe that the era of “post truth” arrived on Inauguration Day 2017 don’t know their history (the tendency to live exclusively in the present is another leftist characteristic). Truth became relativized when the Enlightenment attempted to serve God his dismissal notice. And when truth becomes relativized it becomes trivialized. Thus the idiocies of post-modernist writers such as Foucault for whom people do not relate to each other as centres of absolute value but as markers in a wider set of relationships ordered not to truth but to power. The secular culture -in the US context at least- has devolved into one from which people have in a sense vanished as ends in themselves. The appropriation of language is a natural consequence of this devolution. Language is a major weapon in the game of power.
The leftist mind makes for a natural host to the post-modern virus, precisely because it is more inclined to a secular metaphysics, and tends to find value in fashion simply because it is fashionable. The conservative mind, in contrast, retains if not a religious conviction then a religious sensibility. The conservative looks at the institutions around him and attempts to retrieve from them some distilled sense of the sacred. The leftist examines those same institutions and discerns an imperative to organise against them. More so if those institutions are protections against the illegitimate acquisition of power.
You might reply something like the following: that what I am calling the actions of a mob are in fact legitimate expressions of real anger. Are we not free to protest in that way? But when a human person has allowed anger to be her psychological core then she is not free to do anything. Human freedom does not consist in the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom emerges as the product of an interiority arranged in such a way that it is inclined towards the good. In music, language, sport the free practitioner is the one who has already mastered the rules. Why should it be any different when it comes to morality? The person in whom anger is the primary operating motive is not free but corrupted, and the expression of that anger is not freely offered.
As is usual in all things vulgar where America leads we follow. I hesitate to call our march for a “People’s Vote” an example of leftist agitation but the similarities with the US situation are in place. There’s the seizure of language for one’s own purposes: a People’s Vote? Who was voting in 2016? Was it a sort of real-life Game of Thrones? And there is the same juvenile obsession with the here and now: the 2016 referendum was so last week! We might note also the same sense of anger made inchoate by an inability to see that mere anger does not imply injustice as its cause.
And most of all there is the willingness of the elite to exploit a sense of grievance in order to secure the entitlements it fears it is about to lose. The European Union is a form of institutionalised leftism as distrustful of national institutions as is the Alinsky-left in the US. The participants in Sunday’s march were the useful idiots of the Remainer deep state. A second referendum would be a stepping stone in what would in essence be a coup d’état. The elite are more than happy to be carried in that direction by the angry masses.
Let’s hope for the sake of the latter that it’s not a case of the frog giving a lift to the scorpion.